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Today in Cleantech

As a student of “Peak Oil” — the idea that global oil production will soon hit a ceiling and then start an irreversible decline — I’m always looking for technologies that can help humankind adapt to it. So is a new industrial consortium that just launched a study aimed at quantifying the potential for a host of technologies aimed at replacing or augmenting the world’s key transportation and industrial fuel. Energy research group Kevin J. Lindemer LLC and the strategic consulting arm of engine maker Ricardo are leading the study, which also has some heavies in its participants list — OPEC, BHP, Statoil, Maersk, Lubrizol, Infineum and Fluor Corp. among them — with a direct interest in hedging their bets when it comes to price and availability of oil. Ricardo’s participation makes a lot of sense, given that about half the world’s oil demand comes from the transportation sector. More efficient internal combustion engines could play an important role in cutting oil use where it’s already embedded, while electric vehicles could make an impact farther down the line. Biofuels, particularly those that feed into existing refining and distribution channels, could also make a dent, though they’re not growing fast enough at present to rely on. Bio-based alternatives to petroleum could help curb demand across a wide array of chemical and plastics applications. And then there’s the huge potential for energy efficiency, achieved a little at a time, to help curb industrial thirst for oil.